National Geographic : 2007 Jan
EXPLOITING THE FOREST Brazil holds about 30 percent of 10,000sq mi ........................... Earth's remaining tropical rain forest. The Amazon Basin pro duces roughly 20 percent of Earth's oxygen, creates much of its own rainfall, and harbors m any unknow n species. But the 5,000................................................. Amazon is under constant attack as settlement spreads and DEFORESTATION exploitation of its natural abun dance continues. Between 2000 and 2005, Brazil lost more than 50,000 square miles of rain forest. 1990 1995 2000 2005 KEY DEFORESTATION SDeforested area: Clear-cutting for ranching and farming is the main destroyer of Brazil's rain forest. Undetected selective logging consumes additional forest. About a fifth of the Brazilian Amazon's 1.6 million square miles of natural cover has been stripped. Fire: Red crosses (main map and inset at right) rep resent forest fires on one day, September 17, 2005. The number of fires nearly doubled early this decade. Half are accidental; the rest are set to clear land. The resulting release of carbon dioxide helps make Brazil a leading contributor of greenhouse gases. Urban zones: Tens of thousands of square miles are classified urban in the Brazilian Amazon, where devel opment and habitat destruction keep swallowing up wilderness. The region now contains 13.5 million people, 70 percent of whom live in or near cities. Land reform: Since 1994, more than half a million poor, landless families have been granted property in agrarian reform settle ments. Many of these settlers make quick money by illegally selling timber and land. Road networks creating fish-bone patterns through forest are the visible imprint of this activity (above). Roads: Ecological destruction follows roads. Eighty percent of deforested land is within 30 miles of a road. PROTECTION Protected areas: Hundreds of state and federal parks and reserves cover 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. About half is strictly off-limits to any kind of development (though enforcement is lax), while sustainable production is allowed elsewhere. Indigenous areas: About a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon is set aside as Indian land. Indigenous peoples' respect for ancestral grounds can preserve islands of pris tine wilderness amid destruction (right).